Global Cities and Middle Class in East Asia

Group Members: Dr. Nissim Otmazgin, Dr. Orna Naftali and Dr. Jooyeon Rhee

In the past few decades, both North Asia and Southeast Asia have witnessed the rapid growth of huge metropolitan centers which serve as dynamic hubs of economic, social, and cultural activities and which attract large-scale domestic and international migration. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Jakarta, Seoul, and Kuala Lumpur are not merely “global cities” attached to regional and worldwide financial and industrial centers, but are key sites for the emergence of novel social formations, including new groups of middle class. These emergent white-collar professionals are said to harbor new expectations and pose new demands in areas such as leisure and education, as well as access to better public services, safer food, and a cleaner environment.

But what other characteristics do the rising Asian middle classes currently exhibit and do members of the new middle classes residing in various mega cities across the region share any political, social, and/or economic values and practices? If so, what accounts for these cross-regional commonalities? Alternatively, how do the new urban middle classes of North and Southeast Asia compare to their counterparts elsewhere in the world, and how can we explain these differences or similarities? The proposed research group will address these questions while attempting to re-think some of the key concepts and theoretical models currently employed in the study of urban development, the emergence of global cities, and the sociological and political features of the middle classes in Asia and beyond.